Those who want to do more than catch criminals but understand them should seek out one of the best Master’s in criminology degrees.
These degrees teach students not only to work within the justice system but also to identify criminals and bring them to justice. If you want to get into the head of a criminal and find out what makes them tick, this might be perfect for you.
The degree programs focus on developing analytical skills surrounding the identification of criminal behavior patterns. Criminologists will also help develop public safety initiatives based on what they discover. It’s a technical, academic field based more on research than investigation.
Let’s check out these degrees in more detail to see if they’ll work for you.
What Is a Master’s in Criminology Degree?
A Master’s degree in criminology is a perfect choice if you want to proceed even further in the criminal justice system. These degrees dive heavily into criminal behavior and the social science aspects of criminal investigations. Serial killers and the like will all be focused on heavily.
Upon attaining the degree, students can become dedicated criminologists, focusing on developing new understandings of criminals. Or they can take other administrative and research roles within the criminal justice system. It’s a flexible and valuable degree in the industry as a whole.
How Much Can You Earn With a Master’s in Criminology Degree?
Those with Master’s degrees in criminology can obtain several positions within the field, earning an average of around $63,000 per year. Managerial positions, however, may yield a higher salary closer to $100,000 per year. These positions are expected to have a 5% growth rate in the next decade.
Additionally, more research-focused positions like criminal sociologists can expect an annual salary of around $82,000 per year. These individuals may take teaching positions at universities or police academies. These positions are projected to grow by about 9% over the next ten years.
What Is Required for a Master’s in Criminology Degree?
A Master’s degree in criminology will have many courses focusing on the social sciences and psychology, specifically as they pertain to catching criminals. Many programs will also incorporate forensic and law classes.
Virtually any specific criminology position will require significant work experience within the field. As such, even those with Master’s degrees in criminology may need to have additional work experience before they can be hired. Some online degrees incorporate these work experience requirements.
Alternatively, your current job in the criminal justice system may be enough. In this case, an online degree’s flexibility might be perfect for your needs.
What Are the Best Master’s in Criminology Degrees?
OSR uses six data points: three school-wide and three program-specific. For school-wide, OSR uses Student Satisfaction, Admission Rates, and the number of programs the school offers online. For program-specific, OSR checks the Median Debt of graduates from that program, how many degrees are offered within that program’s umbrella department, and what percentage of students at that school graduated from that department.
The six statistics are displayed by each school. The sliding bar under each statistic represents how that school compares to other US institutions. “Not reported” means a school did not release that information to the US Department of Education. A more detailed description of the OSR process can be found on the methodology page.
Now let’s check out the 10 best online Master’s in criminology degrees!
University of California-Irvine
- Tuition: $11,502(in state) / $26,604(out of state)
- Ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report
- Requires residency orientation
- 52 units
School WideStudent Satisfaction75.00%Admission Rate37%Programs offered onlineNot Reported
Program LevelMedian Debt$35,541Programs in Department1Popularity at School17.26%100%OSR Score
UC Irvine provides a Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society online. As the name suggests, it’s a rigorous and diverse curriculum that’s perfect for those who want to understand both the theoretical and practical applications of the law in relation to criminal psychology. It’s a perfect choice if you want a degree that prepares you for the widest possible array of jobs in the criminal justice sector.
Indiana State University
- Tuition: $7,272(in state) / $14,274(out of state)
- 36 credit hours
- Several start dates available
- $25 application fee
School WideStudent Satisfaction72.60%Admission Rate85%Programs offered online19
Program LevelMedian Debt$30,519Programs in Department1Popularity at School11.76%92%OSR Score
Indiana State University’s program contains a classic curriculum, emphasizing the practical applications of criminology within the criminal justice system. Several certificate programs are available as well, if students want to specialize their studies. Additional licensure and endorsements can be pursued simultaneously to the main curriculum.
Missouri State University-Springfield
- Tuition: $4,824(in state) / $9,702(out of state)
- 30 or 36 credit hours
- Several start dates available
- Thesis and non-thesis options available
School WideStudent SatisfactionNot ReportedAdmission Rate84%Programs offered online24
Program LevelMedian DebtNot ReportedPrograms in Department1Popularity at School8.11%90%OSR Score
Missouri State University in Springfield offers an entirely asynchronous degree program in this field. It can be completed in only four semesters or in an accelerated format if you take a bachelor’s program at the same school. It offers a diverse curriculum, covering most of the major aspects of both criminal justice and criminology from a psychological standpoint.
Texas A & M University-Commerce
- Tuition: $3,630(in state) / $11,100(out of state)
- 36 credit hours
- Five-week classes
- Can be completed in 1.5 years
School WideStudent SatisfactionNot ReportedAdmission Rate35%Programs offered online7
Program LevelMedian Debt$29,933Programs in Department2Popularity at School2.52%90%OSR Score
Texas A&M University offers a graduate degree in this field with four concentrations, ranging from management to homeland security. As such, it’s an ideal degree for students looking to specify their studies. Rather than a thesis, a capstone course is required for graduation, which is rare for any Master’s program regardless of subject.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
- Tuition: $12,000(in state) / $18,000(out of state)
- Can be completed in three semesters
- Accelerated Bachelor’s-Master’s track available
- 30 semester hours
School WideStudent Satisfaction75.00%Admission Rate91%Programs offered onlineNot Reported
Program LevelMedian Debt$28,606Programs in Department1Popularity at School16.19%89%OSR Score
Indiana University of Pennsylvania has a 40-year-old program that has continued to remain innovative for decades. It provides a strong foundation for doctoral study in criminology, making it a strong choice if you want to pursue a doctoral degree. Classes can be taken either full or part-time depending on your scheduling needs.
Western Kentucky University
- Tuition: $11,780(in state) / $16,260(out of state)
- Three distinct areas of focus
- Five or eight-week terms
- 36 credit hours
School WideStudent Satisfaction73.80%Admission Rate95%Programs offered online9
Program LevelMedian DebtNot ReportedPrograms in Department2Popularity at School5.36%87%OSR Score
Regis University offers an MS in Criminology that’s perfect for anyone passionate about reducing criminal behavior. It answers questions about whether criminal behavior is inherent or learned, and how cognitive and behavioral psychology may prevent future crimes. It also has classes focused on school violence: a rare topic that isn’t discussed in every program.
- Tuition: $12,852(in state) / $12,852(out of state)
- Several start dates each year
- 36 credit hours
- Can be completed in 12 months
School WideStudent Satisfaction73.60%Admission Rate60%Programs offered online25
Program LevelMedian Debt$46,731Programs in Department1Popularity at School5.59%87%OSR Score
Tiffin University’s program is both convenient and affordable. It’s intended for professionals who already work in the criminal justice system, and has classes taught by faculty members who have first-hand experience in the criminology field. Its job-oriented virtual classroom dynamic is perfect for those intending to immediately enter the workforce after graduation.
- Tuition: $10,800(in state) / $10,800(out of state)
- No application fee if admitted within 20 days
- In-person hybrid classes also available
- 30-36 credit hours
School WideStudent Satisfaction73.80%Admission Rate81%Programs offered onlineNot Reported
Program LevelMedian DebtNot ReportedPrograms in Department1Popularity at School9.29%81%OSR Score
Saint Joseph’s University offers a dynamic online program that focuses on the criminal justice system from the perspective of industry leaders. It’s a research-heavy program designed to create scholar-practitioners in the criminology field. Five concentrations are available to let you specialize the degree according to your interests, ranging from behavior management to federal law enforcement.
- Tuition: $12,600(in state) / $12,600(out of state)
- 33 credit hours
- Can be completed in less than two years
- Six start dates throughout the year
School WideStudent Satisfaction72.80%Admission Rate69%Programs offered online17
Program LevelMedian DebtNot ReportedPrograms in Department1Popularity at School1.44%80%OSR Score
Bowling Green State University offers a program with incredibly small class sizes, making it easy for students to get one-on-one professor attention. It provides an excellent base for pursuing a doctoral or law degree while being suitable as a general criminology credential as well. Depending on your schedule needs, the degree can be completed either full or part-time.
Saint Joseph's University
- Tuition: $16,401(in state) / $16,401(out of state)
- Two weekend residencies required
- Must complete a professional e-portfolio of work
- 36 credit hours
School WideStudent Satisfaction73.80%Admission Rate77%Programs offered online4
Program LevelMedian Debt$34,116Programs in Department1Popularity at School8.10%79%OSR Score
Alliant International University provides a program that focuses on understanding why violence occurs. It’s an ideal choice for students that want to dive deep into criminal behavior and spend most of their careers in police departments. Several advanced concentrations are available, ranging from forensic technology to trial consulting, allowing you to tailor the degree according to your interests.